Can I Pay Myself a Salary From Charity or Non-profit?

The process for salaries and wages differs from one employer to another. Usually, the most prevalent employer within most economies is companies. For most companies, employees include workers who work on various tasks. Based on their time and hourly rate, the company compensates them. Then, companies report those amounts as expenses in the income statement and financial statements.

Most companies are transparent about the salaries and wages they pay their employees. However, they only provide the total figure paid as a part of the payroll expenses. These entities always pay employees based on the underlying employment contract signed with them. However, the same process does not apply to other employers. These employers may not have the same standards for employment.

One of the prominent employers where salaries and wages differ is non-profits. These may include entities, such as charities, schools, hospitals, etc. Usually, non-profits employ workers who work on various tasks. However, they also obtain services from volunteers and other individuals. On top of that, they must be more transparent when reporting their expenses related to those items.

A crucial area in non-profit salaries includes payments to owners or founders. These areas fall under severe scrutiny from the public and donors. Therefore, owners must know if they can pay themselves a salary from charity or non-profit. Before discussing that, it is crucial to understand non-profits and their salaries.

What is a Non-profit?

A non-profit organization (NPO) is a legal entity that operates to achieve a collective benefit. Usually, this benefit is social or public. NPOs exist for the welfare of the general public or a specific class. These entities do not aim to increase profitability. Similarly, they do not operate to generate revenues or increase shareholder wealth. Instead, NPOs seek to work toward a cause for a collective benefit.

However, that does not imply that non-profits do not generate any revenues. These entities can still make sales and purchases like other businesses. Furthermore, they can exist in a similar capacity as other entities that aim to profit from operations. However, NPOs do not use their profits similarly to other businesses. Instead, they commit any revenues that exceed expenses to their purpose.

Non-profits receive funds from various parties. These parties constitute donors who are similar to investors for companies. However, they do not expect any returns from the NPO. Donors usually provide finance to NPOs without any expectations. Nonetheless, it does not imply that these parties do not seek accountability for the funds provided. Some donors may also restrict their funds, giving NPOs a specific area to use those funds.

Overall, non-profits are entities that exist to achieve a collective goal. These entities do not aim for similar objectives as businesses that exist to profit. However, that does not imply their operations differ. In most cases, NPOs may perform similar activities as other businesses. However, they do not distribute their profits among investors. These profits go toward the NPO’s goal. Similarly, these entities have donors instead of investors or shareholders.

How do Non-profit Salaries Work?

As mentioned above, non-profits operate similarly to other entities and businesses. Therefore, they may use employees in similar capacities. In exchange, they compensate those employees through salaries and wages. However, NPOs may also obtain the services of volunteers. In these cases, people offering those services do not constitute an employee for the non-profit. Therefore, they will not require compensation in exchange.

Non-profits endure more scrutiny for salaries and wages than other employers. As mentioned above, these entities exist to achieve a collective goal. Usually, these goals relate to public or social causes. Donors provide funds to NPOs to finance those goals. Therefore, they keep a close eye on how NPOs spend that finance. On top of that, the public also follows the operations performed by NPOs.

One advantage that non-profits have over other organizations is volunteers. Usually, these include people who offer their services for free. These people often act as the backbone of NPOs. Smaller charities depend on them to perform the tasks that other entities get from employees. However, volunteers must meet specific criteria to fall under the category.

On top of that, several laws may dictate and impact non-profit salaries. For example, in the US, the IRS guides in this regard. It allows NPOs to pay reasonable salaries to their employees and other similar people. However, these salaries should contribute to the NPO’s purpose. However, the same does not apply to volunteers. Since they do not constitute employees, the laws are more lenient in this case.

How much do non-profits pay their staff?

Non-profits do not offer the most lucrative salaries in the market. Compared to other employers, NPOs may provide a lower income opportunity. However, there are no specific rules on how much non-profits should pay their staff. Non-profits can decide to set the payments at a reasonable rate compared to the market. However, they go under more scrutiny due to their activities.

One of the most crucial aspects of non-profit salaries includes the regulations from the IRS. The IRS can fine NPOs and their employees for excessive pay. Essentially, the rules dictate that NPOs cannot use their resources to profit a private party. Excessive pay does not conform to this rule. Therefore, the IRS may harm NPOs that use their resources to benefit employees.

However, non-profits still need to pay employees a decent rate to attract and retain them. If they fail to do so, they may not have the expertise and skills to meet their goals. On top of that, they must also compete with other businesses for their employees. NPOs are still a type of business and must recruit skilled employees to further their cause.

Most non-profits use a mix of employees and volunteers to benefit their cause. This way, they can still meet their objectives while conforming to the rules with non-profit salaries. On top of that, they adhere to those rules through lower pay to employees. Some employees may also accept lesser compensation if they support the underlying NPO’s cause.

Can I pay myself a salary from Charity or Non-profit?

Non-profit salaries for employees fall under various rules and regulations. However, CEOs or owners may wonder if they can pay themselves a salary from a non-profit. The answer to that question is similar to that for employees. Usually, NPOs fall under trouble for paying excessively high salaries to their CEOs or executive directors. It occurs because they fail to consider various factors.

A non-profit CEO or founder can pay themselves a salary from charity or non-profit. However, this salary must classify as fair under the rules. On top of that, they must justify the salary they earn. Usually, founders make money for running the non-profit they founded. They also work more than employees to achieve their goals. Therefore, salaries should not be an issue for them.

The IRS allows founders to pay themselves a salary from their charity or non-profit. However, it applies all the rules that apply to other NPO salaries. Similarly, the IRS does not guide on how much salary founders can pay themselves. CEOs and founders must decide how much they earn. However, the IRS will penalize them for excessive amounts.

Overall, non-profit founders can pay themselves a salary from their charity or non-profit. However, they must ensure that salary conforms to the rules and regulations. The compensation they receive does not constitute a distribution of profits from the non-profit. Instead, it must relate to the work and services they provide to the entity.


Non-profits are entities that seek to achieve a collective goal. These entities operate similarly to other businesses. However, they do not exist to profit from their activities. Non-profits use employees and volunteers to help with their cause. They pay salaries to employees. On top of that, non-profit founders can also pay themselves a salary from the non-profit. However, they must work to earn it.